Energy News

Getting Off the Grid: IKEA Leads the Way in Wind Energy

(3BL Media and Just Means)-The Windy City is about to get windier. And hopefully, less reliant on fossil fuels.  IKEA recently announced their purchase of Hoopeston Wind, a wind farm of 49 wind turbines near Hoopeston in Vermilion County, two hours south of Chicago.  The purchase is the first wind power investment IKEA has made in the USA and their largest renewable energy project ever.

Coca Cola is the David that the Slingshot Needs.



"The Slingshot is the little tool that David needs to defeat Goliath"—Dean Kamen.

Florida’s Untapped Solar Power

(3BL Media/Just Means) I've spent the summer living in historic St. Augustine, Florida. The surf is great, the people are friendly and the sun shines brightly every single day. The sun is powerful here, powerful enough it seems to produce enough solar energy for most of the nation.

Debate Over Value of Renewables Brings in Heavy Hitters

A recent article in The Economist describes a blog post by Charles Frank of the Brookings Institute in which he questions the  methods that have been used to compare renewable energy sources with more traditional sources like coal, gas and nuclear.

Drawing on the work of Paul Joskow of MIT, Frank claims that the generally accepted levelized cost models, which essentially divide the total lifetime system cost by the total amount of electricity produced, do not adequately discount the value of renewables sources like solar and wind based on their intermittent nature. Joskow’s reasoning is that since these intermittent sources vary their output at different times of the day and the year, that should be reflected in their value, since the demand for, and the price of electricity also varies throughout the day, at least in the commercial market.

So, given that wind, for example, produces electricity mostly at night, when the power is less valuable, that should be reflected in the value of a wind investment. Solar, on the other hand produces mostly at mid-day, when the power is most valuable, so it may be getting short-changed by the levelized cost approach.

Frank started with Joskow’s premise, then went on to perform a detailed analysis of various energy sources, based on avoided emissions and avoided costs, which revealed, he says, that contrary to popular belief, solar and wind are the least cost-effective way of producing low carbon electricity, followed by hydro, nuclear, and finally at the top of the list is combined cycle gas turbine power. Written from the perspective of building new electric generation capacity, Frank concludes, “Assuming that reductions in carbon dioxide emissions are valued at $50 per metric ton and the price of natural gas is not much greater than $16 per million Btu, the net benefits of new nuclear, hydro, and natural gas combined cycle plants far outweigh the net benefits of new wind or solar plants.”

The problem with an analysis like this is, given the rapidity with which renewable energy costs are dropping, trying to compare them with traditional sources is akin to trying to catch a falling knife. Frank’s data was obsolete by the time the ink dried on the page.

In addition, the analysis is highly sensitive to the eventual market price for carbon, which could swing the results dramatically. Also not considered is the impact of energy storage which could easily neutralize the liabilities that form the basis for Frank’s thesis.

Bulk Electric Storage Not a Requirement For Widespread Use of Renewables

 

(3BLMedia/Justmeans) - Physicist Amory Lovins has been at the leading edge of energy alternatives since well before most people ever heard of climate change. Far from an idealist, he is a hard-nosed scientist who has done the math to show what is possible if we are willing to think outside the box. His two latest books, Winning the Oil Endgame, and Reinventing Fire, lay out in detail the ways that our society can wean itself off of oil, coal and nuclear through a smart deployment of renewables, efficiency, with a bit of natural gas thrown in as a bridge fuel, all while growing the economy by double digits.

Lovins, along with his crew at the Rocky Mountain Institute put together a prototype 100 mpg Hypercar back in 2007, introducing groundbreaking technologies that car companies have been racing to catch up with ever since.

Now as the world has begun heeding his advice, Lovins has rolled up his sleeves to identify the various conceptual, physical, economic, political, and technological roadblocks that threaten progress and is busy dispelling them wherever he can. The latest is the idea that due to the intermittent nature of various energy sources, we can’t reliably implement renewables on a large scale without massive investments in energy storage.

Here again, Lovins has done the math, with a series of simulations. While it’s true that many renewables are intermittent, new smart grid technologies are quite responsive. Lovins presents the solution in terms of choreography, his word for a dynamic matching of electricity supply with demand. The fact is that sunshine and wind do come and go, but they do so in a fairly predictable manner. About as predictable, says Lovins, as the demand is. He also points out that since no power generation source is completely reliable, that grid has already been designed to accommodate that.

California Gets a Boost for Energy and Water Efficiency

(3Bl Media/Justmeans) - Energy efficiency is on the rise again. After declining in the nineties, investment is back up for a number of reasons. According to ACEEE, investment hit a peak in 1992 of around $2 billion, then dropped to $1 billion in 1999, before picking up again to the point where in 2013, combined spending in gas and electric efficiency programs exceeded $7 billion.

China Making a Major Shift to Natural Gas

(3Bl Media/Justmeans) - Two weeks ago we wrote about the surprising announcement that Beijing would be banning the burning of coal by 2020. Though the move was largely prompted by the intolerable levels of air pollution, there is also growing evidence that they are determined to clean up their act on carbon emissions.

GE’s Fuel-cell Technology: Energy Game Changer

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – Fuel-cell technology has been the focal point of interest for scientists and engineers around the world who are looking for more sustainable sources of energy for mass use. The power generating efficiency of fuel cells steers ahead of almost every other energy source. Unlike conventional power-generation methods, fuel cells directly convert chemical energy into electrical energy, which minimizes the environmental impact.

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